Mongolia on Sunday started the celebration of Naadam, its biggest national festival. Thousands gathered in the central stadium of Ulan Bator to watch the opening ceremony.

“Greetings to all Mongolians who are celebrating the joyous Naadam festival in Mongolia as well as around the world and the honoured guests who have come here to see the festival and wish you the best,” said President Elbegdorj Tsakhia at the ceremony.

The Naadam festival, the biggest sports and entertainment event in Mongolia, has been celebrated in summer for centuries as a test of courage, strength, horsemanship and marksmanship, culminating with “the three men's games” — wrestling, archery and horse racing. In the Mongolian language, Naadam means game.

On Sunday, the festival started with cultural performances and sports shows. Horsemen dressed like ancient Mongolian warriors galloped around the central stadium amid cheering crowds. Representatives of different social sectors paraded around the stadium holding banners with their names.

Battsetseg Namjilsangarav, a 30-year-old Mongolian woman, said: “Naadam is our biggest national holiday. The festival reminds us of our national identity and where we come from. Seeing horse riders, wrestlers and archers in traditional clothes is really great.”

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